Bio: Born in Detroit; Notre Dame law school; assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago; chief of the office’s drug task force; federal district court judge. Since 1999, she has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
If picked: Continuing the dominance of federal circuit judges on the high court. First African-American female justice. Would replace fellow Midwesterner. Never worked in Washington, D.C.
Judge Ann Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit was the subject of speculation last year after Justice David Souter announced his retirement, but the acknowledgement by the Obama administration that she’s under consideration marks the first time officials have confirmed that they’re looking at her. The White House official spoke to The National Law Journal only on condition of anonymity.
Williams, 60, joins fellow 7th Circuit Judge Diane Wood on the list of those under consideration.
A native of Detroit, Williams served as a federal district judge in the Northern District of Illinois from 1985 until 1999, when the Senate confirmed her to the 7th Circuit. She was an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago for nine years, rising to head the office’s drug task force, before President Ronald Reagan nominated her to the bench, according to a 1986 Legal Times story. Click here for her biography from the Federal Judicial Center.
The Legal Times story reports that her 1985 nomination “received more coverage in the style sections of major daily newspapers than in the news sections,” because she was one week shy of giving birth to her second child when her nomination was announced. “Several major dailies profiled Williams at the time, citing her as an example of how the successful career woman balances the demands of job and family,” the story says.
The Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire for nominees arrived the day she went into labor. “I was in labor and my husband was reading the questions to me,” she recalled then, adding, “There came a time when we had to put it down.”
In 2005, the liberal group Alliance for Justice, citing Reagan’s appointment of Williams, suggested her as a potential consensus choice to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Williams was the first African-American judge appointed to the 7th Circuit. She has a bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University, a master’s from the University of Michigan, and a J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School. She clerked for the late 7th Circuit Judge Robert Sprecher.